MAXTON — Commissioner Cynthia Johnson set off a barrage of protests from other town officials and residents when she publicly accused the town’s former mayor, town council, and town manager for the financial crisis the town now faces.
Johnson referred to each individual council member, the mayor and manager by name, telling those in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting of the council that they are directly responsible for overspending and the mismanagement of the town’s finances for the past two years.
“They were in charge when the (state) Local Government Commission started sending letters about problems,” she said. “… By law a manager is supposed to advise on how money is to be spent. That town manager (Vince Long) didn’t do it.”
Earlier in the meeting, Johnson, with the support of council members Mark McEachin and Timothy McMillan, successfully won a 3 to 2 decision to abolish committees set up by the former town board and remove permission from the local Chamber of Commerce to maintain some town property. Commissioners James McDougald and Vincent Womack, holdovers from the former council, voted against.
Following Johnson’s attack on the former council and manager, McDougald countered by saying that Johnson’s behavior was the “most disrespectful” act he had ever seen.
“I had not seen Mayor Pro-Tem Johnson at a meeting in two years,” he said. “I don’t like what she says, but I’ll work with her because the people put me here to get things done. Her grandstanding here tonight will not change a thing.”
McDougald’s opinion of Johnson’s comments were echoed by other former officials and residents who say they are tired of the infighting and power plays going on among town officials.
“I’ve never been so embarrassed,” said resident Diane Dixon. “I don’t even want to walk down the street in Laurinburg or Maxton. We got power struggles going on here and it’s pathetic.”
Ray Oxendine, a former commissioner, and former Mayor Gladys Dean, also defended the former board.
“I’m one of those who served on that board,” Oxendine said. “I accepted the manager’s report (on financial issues). We now need to work together to move the town of Maxton forward.”
“All municipalities are in (financial) disarray because the federal government is in disarray,” Dean said. “We are not broke, but if we don’t put in programs to get money to cover for reduced revenues we will be.”
Last week, Sharon Edmundson, director of the fiscal management section of the state Local Government Commission met with the commissioners and warned them that the town could run out of cash by the end of the year. She said the town needs to generate more revenue or make additional cuts in expenditures.
Joyce McRae, the chairperson of the local Chamber of Commerce, told the town board Tuesday that she is “disgusted with the behavior” of some board members.
“This is not about you. It’s about all of us,” she said. “How dare you embarrass us?”
Commissioner Womack attempted to play peacemaker.
“We’ve got to move on,” he told the crowd of about 50. “We’ve all got to work together. Don’t go by the rumors you hear and we’ll be all right.”
Mayor Sallie McLean told The Robesonian before going into a closed session that the goal of the town board is to involve the greatest number of people as possible in the local government.
“We want to get more citizens involved,” she said in defense of the board’s decision to abolish the committees that had consisted of two commissioners and the town manager. “We’re going to revamp these committees … .
“I think at the end of the day everyone will come together and work for the best of Maxton. We all need to come together. That’s my job, bringing them together.”
In other business:
— After two years of working to develop a local “Keep America Beautiful” program, the town on Tuesday was officially recognized for meeting all the certification requirements of the national “Keep America Beautiful” organization. Jennie Stultz, a national training official with Keep America Beautiful, was present to officially welcome the town as a new affiliate of the organization.
— Angie Hutchins, collections manager with DataMax of Winston-Salem, told the commissioners that her company over the past year has collected for the town almost $26,100 in back taxes. She said that the amount collected was a little low, but should improve as the economy does.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.